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Research into cancer technologies and services recognized with funding

By Matthew Pariselli  •  Jun 4, 2019

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Six Sunnybrook Research Institute scientists working in prevention, screening and care receive support from provincial network

Four projects involving six Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) scientists have been awarded funding through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research-Cancer Care Ontario Health Services Research Network. It was announced today that Drs. Rena Buckstein, Kelvin Chan, Natalie Coburn, Julie Hallet, Alexander Louie and Lee Mozessohn, all in the Odette Cancer Research Program at SRI, secured support.

“Critical to improving outcomes for people with cancer is ensuring health care services are delivered appropriately and new techniques are implemented properly,” says Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president of research at SRI and Sunnybrook. “The researchers at SRI who’ve been recognized with funds today are achieving these goals, and I congratulate them on their awards.”

Buckstein, an affiliate scientist in Biological Sciences and a hematologist at Sunnybrook, and Mozessohn, an affiliate scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and a hematologist at Sunnybrook, will collaborate to evaluate real-world risks and costs of azacitidine therapy on acute myeloid leukemia patients. Azacitidine is a chemotherapy drug, while acute myeloid leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow but quickly moves into the blood. To do this, they will look at the largest registry of patients with this form of leukemia and link it to administrative databases.

Chan, an associate scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and an oncologist at Sunnybrook, will team up with Scott Gavura of Cancer Care Ontario and Dr. Wanrudee Isaranuwatchai of St. Michael’s Hospital. They will evaluate the safety, effectiveness and economic impact of using the drug bevacizumab, which works by stopping or reducing the growth of new blood vessels, in advanced colorectal cancer. Further, the trio will explore the use of CAR T cell therapy in Ontario. This is a kind of immunotherapy in which a patient’s T cells are genetically manipulated and multiplied in a lab, then reinfused into the patient to attack cancer cells.

Coburn, an associate scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and a surgical oncologist at Sunnybrook, and Louie, a scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and a radiation oncologist at Sunnybrook, will work together on a lung cancer project. They aim to improve symptom-screening for lung cancer by gathering information on which patients are at higher risk for symptom burden, what supportive care interventions are offered to those who present with high risk and how health care use is affected by such interventions.

Hallet, an associate scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and a surgical oncologist at Sunnybrook, will focus her project on the post-cancer surgery timeframe, assessing the likelihood of older adults returning home, needing home care services or being admitted into a long-term care facility. To estimate the chances of these outcomes after surgery, a web-based tool will be developed for patients and health care providers to use.

In all, 10 projects involving 103 researchers received funding. A total of $2.7 million will be invested in the research endeavours over the next two years.


In a nutshell

  • Six Sunnybrook Research Institute scientists have received funds from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
  • The funded projects focus on optimizing the delivery of cancer services and introducing new cancer technologies.
  • The works range from assessing the impact of a drug therapy to developing a web-based tool that estimates post-surgery outcomes.